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Sunday, September 18, 2005


R/UDAT Springfield, the commission charged with advising Springfield how to be more beautiful, among other things, was back in town this week. SJR: Urban design experts hold forum; Say city's approach to design issues is a model for the country. (Link good only for about a week.)

Most of the group's focus is on the downtown area, Capital Avenue leading up to the Statehouse, and the area known as the Capitol Complex. That includes the Stratton Office Building:

The Stratton Building, a state office building just west of the Capitol, has been derided widely for its unimaginative design.

It's a state office building. It's not a private palace. It is a place where government is conducted. Not a center for commerce and profit. It has not become ugly. Rather, it has become classic. It's architectural beauty lies in its austerity and utilitarian function.

I can't help but notice how the commission seems to overlook the Prairie Capital Convention Center just six blocks to the east of the Capitol Complex and a couple blocks from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Or, perhaps they have, unbeknownst to me, but the city and the media prefer to draw our attention elsewhere.

Unlike the Stratton, the PCCC has not aged at all well. If the team was truly concerned with design and beauty, wouldn't they take into account this behemoth of concrete and metal reminiscent of a weekend pole barn project gone miserably wrong. That they're not makes me suspicious.

These are the experts. We're expected to nod in agreement and trust them. Pardon me for not buying lock, stock, and barrel, what they're selling. I can't help but question if the demolition of the Stratton Office Building isn't just one more big unnecessary way the politicians have devised to dig into our pockets. If we were rolling in a surplus of cash, I might be inclined to looking at this differently. But, we're not.

The Stratton Office Building may very well be the last testament to an era in Illinois politics when politicians got elected for their ability to run government as opposed to handing out creampuff contracts to their friends and contributors.

Additional reading: July 22, 2004, entry speculating on the real purpose of the Stratton Office Building.

CORRECTION a couple hours later: After I wrote this, I went downtown. The PCCC is not concrete and metal. It is beige brick and metal. And, where I said it hasn't aged well, in fact, it's just as unsightly as it was the day it was built, some 20 years ago.

Posted by Marie at September 18, 2005 5:07 PM